As dry weather lingers across California, the Tuolumne Utilities District could decide to join a number of other water agencies in the state that are calling for customers to curb their use of the increasingly scarce resource.

The TUD board will hold a special meeting Friday afternoon to consider implementing "Phase II" water conservation measures, with an eye toward mandatory conservation by the end of the month.

"This is the earliest we've ever called for it since I've been here," said TUD General Manager Tom Scesa, who has worked at the district since 1996.

TUD Water Rules and Regulations stipulate the district implement the "Phase II" level of conservation when the February snow survey indicates that anticipated water runoff is less than 50 percent of normal.

TUD staff is looking to implement the "Phase II" water conservation measures now, because the February snow survey is anticipated to reflect that runoff will be less than 50 percent of average - even if the state receives normal precipitation over the next three months.

The California Department of Water Resources' first snow survey of winter on Jan. 3 found that the water content in the statewide snowpack was about 20 percent, tied with 2012 for the lowest reading ever recorded at that time of year. That means, if there's no precipitation between now and February, the amount of runoff will likely be less than 20 percent of normal.

When the snowpack melts in the spring, the runoff feeds into streams and reservoirs to provide about a third of the water supply for California cities and farms.

"Part of the effectiveness of water conservation is to implement these measures as early as possible, as we cannot assume with certainty that enough rain and snow will accumulate to fulfill demand through the year," Scesa wrote in a memo to the board.

"Phase II" conservation measures are voluntary and mostly aimed at increasing public awareness about the projected lack of supply, according to the TUD Water Rules and Regulations.

Customers would receive notices in the mail advising them of the low water outlook and providing tips about conserving. They would also be asked to monitor outside water use and fix any household leaks.

For the full story see today's Union Democrat.